If you start with the audience in mind, then every choice you make becomes more focused and purposeful. This is the first step in the right direction. It may seem obvious, but it is not common. Instead, you often see people trying to promote themselves and it comes across as cringe. Genuinely providing a service to the public with your content marketing will earn you respect and trust with a customer base.
You can start this process by imagining which topics are most important to your audience. If you are doing content marketing for a yoga studio you will find different content pillars than if you are working with a shopping center. Each business or organization will have a different audience they are trying to reach. Identify four or five topics you think would be most relevant to your audience as the starting point to organize your content.
One of the great things about this approach is that it puts you in dialogue with other people creating content in your field. You have the opportunity both to research and to network. By learning about what other people are doing and saying you expand your knowledge of the topics and you identify the interesting people with whom you might want to collaborate.
Say for example you get hired to create content and to do content marketing for a gym. In addition to the original work that you will create by interviewing key figures, photographing equipment, doing videos of exercises, or what have you, you will also provide a valuable service by posting relevant information about: nutrition, fitness competitions, cutting edge gear and technique, inspiration from favorite influencers, etc.
There is so much content created for the internet every day, so organizing the relevant stories in a way that is useful to busy people makes a lot of sense. Content marketing is dual in nature: you both create original content and curate relevant content. This combination of research and production makes for a rich and useful follow.
The Internet is a very chaotic place, so curation can help give people a sense of order. It is important to make original work to promote your brand’s values, products, services, etc., but you can also do something valuable by organizing a timeline of relevant articles as they are published that help to inform and to flesh out the context of your subjects. If people gain an understanding of a topic by following your feed, then they are much more likely to believe that you know what you are talking about when you discuss your own offerings.
Begin by imagining a half dozen of your ideal customers. Who are your services or products designed to help or please? Now imagine what they would want to know about, what would be entertaining to them, what would give them a reason to smile, something new to learn, a talking point, an inspiring quote, something that adds to their understanding and experience of whatever your field is. As content marketers, we have the privileged position of creators and teachers, and when we combine those two elements well, a lot of value is created for the client.
I enjoy creating content, call it what you will. I’m an artist with a fine art background and a Ph.D. in Literature. I make my living as an independent contractor creating digital assets for content marketing, and I have done so since 2013. I strive to use photography and writing to create a mood and to convey a message.
Being an artist is either academic or entrepreneurial by nature. Or, as KRS One taught us, edutainment is the combination of both. There is and always has been a business aspect to creativity for me because I value independence. Creativity comes from creative choice which requires creative freedom. Communication requires emotional intelligence and an understanding of the context. You need to be empathetic to your own and your audience’s desires simultaneously while you craft a message for a brand or to spark ideas about culture.
You need a good plan to be able to have the time to do creative work that can both delight and educate. My goal is always to make things that other people will love and that communicates a message or asks questions. At the core, that’s my motivation: to create something you will enjoy and that provides subject matter that can act as a prompt for thought, dialogue and action.
I don’t think that I have all the answers. I constantly push myself to learn more and to improve in every way possible. From working out, to eating well, to researching, writing and studying the craft of photography, I’m passionate about making the best possible product for the public and I devote myself to the process. For me, this means working up early and working hard all day every day. It means researching new ideas and experimenting with new techniques.
In order to enhance your desire to experiment, cannabis is a really valuable tool for creative work. It helps to balance out my analytic side. A side effect of cannabis is to make you hungry, but it also amplifies the pleasure of eating, of seeing something beautiful, of feeling your experience. It turns up the volume on your sensory perception. Cannabis consumption can shift your focus to bodily perceptions and help you to feel the flow of energy in your breath and circulating throughout your body.
For me, It gives the moment a beautiful focus, a sense of nothing else happening but the act I’m performing if that is looking through photos, composing a shot, writing out a draft for an idea, or interacting with other artists or businesspeople.
Cannabis creates a perspective shift. It both causes you to focus more on your physical sensations and it stimulates your mind so that you see something in a new way. That can be disturbing and a source of anxiety if you are not used to becoming suddenly introspective. If you are not used to looking at art for long periods of time, staring stoned at Instagram can blow your mind. You just see things differently. You see vibes. Once you can see vibes, you want to curate vibes. Your work becomes a garden flowering in different moods.
Getting stoned helps you to see your work the way other people will see it. If you are working on a painting or some writing and you get stoned and go back to work, you suddenly see it totally differently. You can smell it. Wherever the tone is off, you will notice.
Cannabis is a great ally for working in the studio. Not only does it shift your focus to sensory perception, it also provides you with a fresh mental outlook so you can see and hear your work with new eyes.
Before the Internet, the interaction between artist or graphic designer and the public didn’t happen that often. Most of the time, they would be focusing all of their energies on the work. Then, once the work was finished, they would present it to the public. This created an occasion. The release of a new work represented countless hours of unseen experimentation and development.
With the Internet, there is an unending back and forth between brand and audience, between content creator and content consumer. The loop has never been shorter or more direct. The level of access the public has to the process of creating content is increasingly more and more comprehensive. Anyone who really wants to figure it out can if they are willing to put int the time and work.
Because of this feedback loop, cannabis has an even more important role to play for the creator. Getting stoned and looking at your work will never lie to you. It might make you insecure as fuck depending on how wack your draft is, but it will definitely not overinflate how good you feel about it. You will experience it and if it feels good it is good. It is that simple.
Simplicity is part of the value cannabis brings. It helps us to make judgments based on simple criteria. Does it feel good. Does it taste good. Does it smell good? You might be able to fool yourself into thinking something is better than it is, but you can’t fool stoned you with fake content. It either sparks joy and makes you happy, or it doesn’t.
We get it, the economy is in trouble, people are scared and fed up at the same time, and nobody seems to have a clear answer to how to solve the problems we are facing. There are plenty of ideas, but the problem is twofold: we need enough political will to execute an idea and we need the organization to keep it going.
While everyone is stuck in this quagmire, many have increased their consumption of social media. This is very understandable as we seek connection, want answers and have nowhere else to look. Social media was already consuming an enormous portion of our collective attention and it now has an even tighter grip on us.
As someone who does social media marketing, I feel a huge responsibility to make great content. Of course, this is a subjective measurement, but I will explain my criteria for creation and selection.
Social Side Effects
First of all, you have to think about the effect your content has on people. You want to put the audience first, and as obvious as this may seem to some it is so common to see marketing that fails at this basic requirement. If you have a brand, an organization or if you are an influencer, then you have to give the audience something they want, something that gives them value.
While businesses have the goal of growing their revenue, social media is not a place to make sales. While it is possible, that is not the ideal use of social: it is more for marketing than for sales. This is possibly the biggest problem that content creators face: how do you satisfy business goals without falling into spammy sales-based content. The answer is: if you do social media well, then people will develop an affinity for the brand and that relationship will lead to an economic exchange. If someone loves your brand, they will support it. If you spam them with obnoxious sales proposals, you not only look desperate, but you repel those relationships that you seek to build.
Professional or Personal?
If you want to reach your professional goals with social media, you have to understand that what you put out there on the internet is not for you. This means separating your personal from your professional work. These spheres are blended often in social media as one of the things that people want to see is what is behind the curtain. People crave and respond to authenticity. So how do your share who you are without it becoming too much information or too self-gratifying?
This dynamic creates a tricky balance. Even if you are showing aspects of your personal life, it is not for your own joy of sharing, but because the public has some interest in connecting with a person behind the public image. Strategy is always important in social media, but now more than ever as people are in heightened psychological states it helps to pay careful attention to why you are posting and what effects it is having.
Social Good or Bad?
Social media is a relatively new phenomena in the world, and its massive influence greatly magnified with the advance of mobile technology. With the coming of 5G it only seems inevitable that phones and social media are likely to be a big part of our lives for the foreseeable future. This means that businesses and organizations really need to participate in this primary form of human communication. Like it or not, the phone is where people’s attention is going.
Because of its recency, the data that we have about social media is difficult to put into a proper context. We are in the infancy of this global development, and we haven’t grown enough with the media to use it in the best possible ways. Of course, there are dangers that we should be aware of and we should strive to create content that is safe and beneficial to human life.
Because of the vastness of social media and the billions of photographs with messages being posted every day there is no way to say if it is good or bad. It is clearly both. People organize social movements for positive change on the same channels that scammers try to steal your information by tempting you to click on a link that is supposed to lead to some kind of sexual fantasy. There are genuinely philanthropic actors making change on social media and there are parasitic mercenaries taking advantage of weakness to make a buck.
Either way, social media is not going to go away, so we can either figure out how to do it well and tip the scales in the balance of good, or we surrender our agency and just accept that the lord of the flies will reign.
What makes social media good?
When you scroll through Instagram, look at your Facebook, peruse Twitter or study LinkedIn what has a positive effect on your mental state and your well being? How does it affect you?
I think that this is a very personal question and the answers must necessarily be personal too, but it has universal importance. For me, it has become a very interesting tool of research. I have created some amazing professional relationships by reaching out to someone with whom I resonated. I like it when people are showing me something that makes me want to do something. Photographs of waves make me want to get in the ocean. Photographs of trails make me want to go for a hike. Great portraits make me want to photograph people. Seeing awesome art gets my creativity fired up. I like the food influencers who are creating delicious looking things that are also good for your body and the planet. Social media helps me to find likeminded people and brands. It can be a source of inspiration and networking
What makes social media bad?
When we see content that doesn’t inspire us or give us something to look forward to it can be a horrible time suck and a distraction from productivity. It is your responsibility to curate your timeline so that what you are looking at is beneficial to your mental state. The things that make social media bad are numerous, but they all come down to causing you to feel unworthy.
At its worst, social media is a huge distraction and a mental health hazard. If we are reckless in our consumption and production of content, then we risk it all. The Internet is a kind of pseudo-public, but we often act as though we are safely at home with the content. The failure to understand the division between real life and social media has cost a lot of people a lot of their lives.
Putting bad content out there is like littering. It is just plain bad for everyone. How do you know if your content is trash? What standards do you use when you decide whether or not to post something? Having some way of measuring what you are putting out there is a good idea. You have to develop some sort of quality control.
How is social media like books and art?
Many if not most people have some degree of discord with the culture they grew up in, whether that is their family, their hometown, or their era in history. Almost nobody is a perfect fit to their place and their time. Many people throughout history have used books and art to connect with likeminded people who are physically unavailable. I remember when I first started taking art and writing seriously, I was obsessed with William Blake. His drawings and poetry gave me a kind of buzz and excitement that I couldn’t find among the people I knew. It was across this vast distance of space and time that I found one of my artistic brothers.
Social media can do this for us, too. But even more amazingly, we have the possibility of connecting with people who never would have been accessible to us in the past. Now, I can direct message an artist in South Africa who is doing something with photography that I find compelling. In this way, social media can be an amazing enhancement to life, and not a negative thing at all.
The Social Future
As we navigate this unprecedented time, and we look at our phones hoping to find some news or inspiration, we have to take responsibility for our part in creating culture and building the world over for the future generations. This means rewarding accounts that post things that you find to be beneficial to your life and ignoring the streams of self-aggrandizing or complaining or otherwise energy sucking media holes.
Your social media is yours to do what you can to make our collective experience better. You can incite hate or promote love. The choice is up to you. What are you going to contribute to our social future?